tihomir orešković.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Damir SENČAR /ds

Croatia's nonpartisan prime minister on Friday called for the leaders of the two parties that put him in power to step aside to end a crippling political crisis and allow the country to move forward.

Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic said bickering between the leaders of the two coalition parties that make up the government paralysed his cabinet and called for the men to give up their cabinet posts.

"Relations between Mr [Tomislav] Karamarko and Mr [Bozo] Petrov have become an overwhelming burden for this government and for Croatia," Oreskovic said in the address to the nation.

Karamarko leads the conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), while Petrov is in charge of Most, a small newcomer insisting on reforms.

The two leaders are feuding about allegations of corruption that Petrov directed at Karamarko before demanding his resignation last week.

HDZ and Most forged a government in January after difficult coalition talks, agreeing to back the nonpartisan Oreskovic as prime minister. But they have since mostly been at odds, blocking Oreskovic's work and raising the possibility of new elections.

"I put a lot of effort in recent days to improve their relations, but in vain. So, I call on Karamarko and Petrov to step down from their positions in the interest of the nation," Oreskovic, who was already a successful business manager in his own right before taking the job, said.

He added that holding new elections would not be a good solution, because they would cost "billions of euros."

Elections on November 8 produced a razor-thin victory for Karamarko's HDZ over previous prime minister Zoran Milanovic's Social Democrats.

The tally in the 151-seat parliament went 59-56 for HDZ versus the Social Democrats. That allowed Most, then with 19 representatives, played kingmaker.   

A former Yugoslav republic that had to fight for its independence and sovereignty in the 1990s, Croatia became the latest addition to the European Union three years ago.

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